Two Sauvignon Blanc’s Worlds Apart

2009 Villa Russiz Sauvignon – Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

2010 Sugarloaf Ridge Sauvignon Blanc – Hobart, Tasmania

As we wing our way from Melbourne to Singapore the wine list on SQ228 has me corned into a sauvignon blanc… a Tinpot 2008 from Marlborough purported to be “atypical as the grapes are predominantly from Blind River in the Awatere Valley which is drier and less fertile than the main valley floor. The result is a lively wine with strong lemony character, bracing acidity, pronounced minerality and overall freshness”.

Warily, I raise the glass to my nose, circumspect this will be just another nausea inducing bitch diesel from Marlborough. It only just lives up to its tasting note, more so on the palate, with a bit too much tropical fruit salad and herbaceous, green pea note and I find myself struggling to get through the glass.

Before you start thinking I’m a Marlborough sauvignon blanc basher, I have written plenty of positive prose on the region and this grape, moreover I came out of the closet a while back declaring there are a few sauvignon blancs I enjoy – occasionally.

Indeed, I had two real palate rousers recently, both mouth-wateringly invigorating and complex; sufficiently exciting the senses and enticing you to another glass.

Interestingly, they come from the opposite ends of the earth although share a sense of obscurity, both relatively unknown on the world wine stage although well recognised in their local domain.

Exuding its decidedly cool-southern climate, the 2010 Sugarloaf Ridge Sauvignon Blanc  from the southern extremes of Tasmania – that’s the island drifting off the end of Australia and nudging Antarctica – I would advise, if served on SQ228, come with a warning to make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened and prepare your tastebuds for Mach 2.

Sugarloaf Sauvignon Blanc

I don’t think I have tried a more vivacious sauvignon blanc than this wine and I am sure, would convert the most sceptical of anti-sauvignon drinkers, what’s more appeal greatly to riesling aficionado’s.

I found myself totally captivated in the bouquet of this wine, lingering on inhaling its intense fragrance (normally have thumb and index finger holding nostrils firmly closed when drinking sauvignon blanc) as you will see in my note.

2010 Sugarloaf Ridge Sauvignon Blanc – Hobart, Tasmania: An intriguing and intensely fragrant melange of mesclun salad, mints – Asian mints, Laksa leaf, lemon mint – subtle snow pea shoots, then an surge of freshly squeezed lime, mandarin zest, passionfruit and kiwifruit, all the while infused with a graphite, steely minerality and chalkiness with white-pepper and fresh-ginger spiciness that has one thinking more of gruner veltliner than sauvignon blanc. An explosion of passionfruit, lime and tangerine engulfs the mouth, succulent and decidedly textural, not creamy but slippery, glassy-smooth and adds an definitive classiness and polish to the palate, yet bristling with invigorating lime-edged acidity with strong nuances of pickled ginger, and lemongrass; a persistent tanginess and mountain-stream freshness highlights the minerality leaving one salivating for a plate of freshly-chucked Tassie oysters. Heroic wine!

Available in Hong Kong through Limestone Wines, HK$275 per bottle; vineyard direct and for all other enquires, trade or consumer, contact Julian Colville who will I am sure, get the wine to you, no matter where you are on the planet. Sugarloaf Ridge also produces outstanding chardonnay and pinot noir, read more…

One the other side of the world and at a decidedly higher altitude, in the Alps bordering Austria and Slovenia, from the Collio hills, 2009 Villa Russiz Sauvignon  is the antithesis of new world sauvignon with its purity and savoury complexities with deep-seated minerality resonating its calcareous marly soils with pronounced personality.

Villa Russiz Sauvignon

Arguably some of the most profound white wines in Italy come from this enigmatic region, mysteriously overlooked on a wine list by consumers yet venerated by sommeliers and more curious palates. It reminds me of Alsace, France (once Germany) in terms of split personality-sovereignty-borders, where the regions has its roots in Austria but is now part of Italy.

Of course, if you were in the region, you’d be lapping up these wines with northeast Italian cuisine, pigging out on prosciutto crudo di San Daniele, at the wonderful relais hotel, La Subida That said, I can’t help thinking this would be a perfect sushi wine.

Villa Russiz Collio vineyards

2009 Villa Russiz Sauvignon – Collio DOC, Italy: Candied lemon-peel, Cape gooseberry and yellow plum amongst scents of garden mint, sage and lavender in flower, turning more savoury and complex with fennel seed, cardamom with a background of musk and waxy nuances – I also detect extended lees contact with dried banana notes and trace of nicely feral cheesiness. Gorgeous palate entry, creamy and somewhat uncharacteristic of sauvignon blanc, gentle and sliding across the palate with peach and stone fruit flavours picking up in vitality towards the mid-palate unleashing a torrent of assertive grapefruit and tangerine juiciness, indeed becoming intensely invigorating with a lingering lemon-bite along with a white pepper spiciness twist of savouriness with strong notes of anise, sage and almond kernel. Wonderfully complex and highly individual wine – must drink more of this.

More widely available in Asia; in Hong Kong, Boutique Wines Tel: 85 228 724 234 – Tokyo, Japan through F Wines & Co

Tel: 00813-57452192 – Seoul, Korea through Naru Global, Tel: 02 2057 7826 – Australia through Trembath & Taylor, Tel: 61 3 9696 7018, In the USA, go to and for all other enquires around the world, contact Phil Langford at Empson & Co

And for the record, other sauvignon blancs that I drink:

Gembrook Hill – Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

Shaw and Smith – Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Arelwood Sussex Loc – Margaret River, Western Australia

Seresin Estate – Marlborough, New Zealand

Churton – Marlborough, New Zealand

Neudorf – Nelson, New Zealand

Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fume La Demoiselle

Domaine Vacheron Sancerre

The Weingut Nigl – Krems, Austria

Tement – Styria, Austria


By Curtis Marsh | Must Have Wines | Related to: , , |

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